June 30, 2022
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In a move highlighting America’s vulnerability to minerals supply chain disruptions, China last week announced that it will halt production of rare earth minerals at three major mines. Reuters reported that this could further tighten supplies of the 17 minerals in China, which is currently responsible for 97 percent of world rare earth production.
“[China] has capped production at 93,800 tons and exports at 30,184 tons, saying it cannot sustain the sort of output levels demanded by foreign customers.
Demand for rare earths is expected to double in the next five years, but Chinese output growth is likely to be much slower, and major importing countries have toyed with the idea of taking legal action.” – Reuters
In the United States, we rely on China for 92 percent of the rare earths used as vital components of night vision and satellite surveillance equipment for the military, as well as advanced energy technologies from electric batteries to wind turbines, and other innovative applications. But despite being home to an estimated 13 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves, there is not one U.S. operation actively refining oxides into pure rare earth metals.
To keep us protected against supply disruptions from foreign producers, the United States needs predictable and non-punitive economic policies that support increased mining of our domestic minerals.